In just one week, I will be 81 years old if I make it, and I hope I will. My brother Bill (and his wife Faye), my sister Elizabeth (and her husband Wendell) and my daughter Grace (and her husband Frank) have promised to take me out for a fancy luncheon. I wouldn’t want to miss that.
Bill and Faye are visiting from London, Ontario. Elizabeth and Wendell, who live in Toronto, are spending the winter (as usual) at their home on the Cotee River, just 60 miles west of Lakeland, where my wife, Sandra, and I live.
I am awestruck at the thought of being 81 years old. My father’s mother, Little Granny, died at 81. My dad didn’t make it past 70.
It never occurred to me that I would make it to 81. Indeed, there were times I didn’t think Old Mother Earth would make it this long. Back in the early Sixties, for example, when Americans and Canadians were building bomb shelters and John Kennedy was staring down Nikita Khrushchev over those missile bases in Cuba.
As young North Americans marched for peace, and the mushroom cloud loomed large above them, a betting man might have been reluctant to give odds on the world’s survival.
Now, here I am, half a century later, still breathing, and the world around me still pulsing with life.
Yes, maybe this time the lunatics will blow up the asylum. Maybe they will provoke a war with Iran or Russia or whomever… Or maybe Pakistan and India will finally lose their patience and blast each other into eternity – and us along with them.
But I doubt it. We’ve been to the brink and back too many times in my lifetime for me to lose faith now.
I feel in my old bones that Mankind will teeter along, blustering and swaggering like the Wizard of Oz, but somehow, sanity will prevail.
And I feel we will generally get better, not worse – in spite of horrors like ISIS and the greed of financial and political big shots.
My faith in humanity got a big boost last night, when Bill and Faye treated Sandra and me to a delightful dinner at GrillSmith, a restaurant in South Lakeland.
Our waitress, Erica Scott, born and bred in Lakeland, gave me a glimpse of the future. And what an encouraging glimpse it was. Erica is 22 years old, a year away from graduating from Polk State College’s nursing program. She then plans to follow the family’s Gator tradition and go to the University of Florida for her master’s so she can work in surgery.
She explains that she wants to do something worthwhile with her life.
Here is one young American who isn’t after the money, who sees beyond the glitter of fool’s gold. And I believe there are many more like her.
We don’t hear about them on TV or read about them in the press. The ones that make news are usually the rotten apples, not the good eggs.
But the good eggs are there, and I am counting on them to save the world as old fogies like me ride off into the sunset.